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December 02, 2003

Getting lost like Jim Thompson

Claudia and I did our own thing today: she headed to the US Embassy to get more pages in her passport (and then shop), and I went to check out Jim Thompson's house and make attempt #3 on the Grand Palace.

At the outset, things looked good. I hopped the Skytrain, got off at the right stop for Jim's place... and promptly got myself lost. Claudia and my mom like to describe me as someone who couldn't find his way out of a paper bag. Unfortunately, they're right. Getting to the house should have been, literally, walk out of the station, walk a bit, make a right turn and then walk a couple hundred yards. Or not. I made 2 wrong turns, wound up on the wrong street 3 times, and only found the damn place by a security guard pointing me in the right direction. All told, I lost at least 30-45 minutes.

The house itself was worth it. Jim was a Yank who worked for the CIA back when it was the OSS. Stationed in Thailand, he loved the place, moved to downtown Bangkok permanently, and did quite well for himself. He started the modern Thai silk industry; the craft had been dying out in Thailand, as the people preferred the fabrics they were importing. Jim started a silk company, brought some samples to New York, and it started to take off in the US — because they preferred fabrics they were importing. Then his company was commissioned to provide silk for all the costumes in the original Julie Andrews The King and I.

As you can imagine, he was set.

Jim made a little housing complex, complete with jungle-like garden, out of teak houses from Ayudhya that he had brought down and reassembled, and also maintained a large collection of Thai art, including paintings, pottery and religious statues.

The house is also raised one level, a very practical part of traditional Thai architecture as it protected the main house during floods. The walls were all dark wood. Buddha statues from Ayutthaya were in the study, the living room, and other parts of the house. I wanted to move in right then and there. The place hasn't been occupied for a few decades, but it's in excellent condition and should be quite livable.

Now, I might've gotten lost, but I fared better than Jim. On holiday in 1967, he went for a walk... and disappeared. No one knows what happened to him; if you guess that he's having a beer with Amelia Earhart and Ambrose Bierce, you're probably right. If you mention that he might be on CIA missions with Elvis, well, you could be on to something there too. I at least got back to the flat.

Without seeing the Grand Palace, though. I didn't finish checking out the house until 3... and the Palace closes at 3:30.

Great. Chalk one up for Anthony's sense of direction...

There were other places in the downtown area I thought about checking out, but at this point I could hardly find my way around the Skytrain station, and didn't feel like aimlessly wandering around lost for the rest of the afternoon. So I retreated.

Not every day goes well, I guess, but hopefully Sukhothai will see an improvement, though probably not in my sense of direction.

Posted by Ant on December 2, 2003 08:09 AM
Category: Thailand

Hey PC and Ant
Glad to note that things are as whacky and fun for you both in Thailand. i am checking this blog from Hyderabad. Managed to get some time for myself today and sneaked into my uncle's study where he hides his computer. My cousin's wedding was a big traditional one, festivities are still on and if you were to see me now, in traditional attire you would not recognize me. Mum remembered Ant, while we were tucking into unusual spicy Hyderabadi biryani. Well maybe on another trip back to India you can taste the same. Have fun in Thailand!

Posted by: Dusty on December 3, 2003 12:14 AM

Claudia and I have been trying to picture you in your dressy sari - but I think we're going to need some proof, Dusty - photos photos photos!

That biryani sounds great - I've really been loving the Thai food: I can build up my spice tolerance even more. And hopefully soon I'll be learning to cook some of it...

Posted by: Ant on December 6, 2003 08:50 AM

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